Perceptual Learning in Support of Language: Insights from Infants and Cochlear Implantees

Seminar | February 11 | 12-1:30 p.m. | Berkeley Way West, Room 1102

 Heather Bortfeld, Ph.D., Professor, Psychological Sciences, University of California, Merced

 Department of Psychology

Cochlear implants improve the ability of profoundly deaf children to understand speech by allowing a way for sound to be transmitted to the brain despite the lack of a working conduction system in the inner ear. Much of what we know about the course of auditory learning following cochlear implantation in young children is based on behavioral indicators that they are able to perceive sound. However, congenitally-deaf children have no concept of what sound is, and thus have highly variable behavioral responses when initially exposed to it. In recent work, my collaborators and I have been using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) as a tool to track changes in speech-evoked cortical activity following cochlear implantation in prelingually deafened infants and young children, as well as in post-lingually deafened adults. We have also been testing how typically developing infants are able to process degraded auditory speech given crossmodal support. Results from both lines of research have theoretical and practical implications for understanding speech processing in a multimodal world.